A Guide to Preparing Your Condo for Sale

A Guide to Preparing Your Condo for Sale

Preparing your condo for sale can be tricky business. You have to take into account everything from the history of the market, where the market sits currently, the value of your condo, the value of the area around your condo, and even the perception of potential buyers. That's a whole lot of material, and there's an objectivity that's necessary but difficult to achieve without the help of professionals—so that's why we've gathered some for you.

Our first professional, Rizwan Malik, Sales Representative at Sotheby's International Realty Canada, and he's provided some advice about the sale process. Our second professional is Luanne Kanerva of Katu Design, who stages houses and condos for sale for Torontoism. She's got the tips necessary to bring the best out of your condo, making it as appealing as possible. So let's dive in!

Getting Started

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What are the basics? How different is preparing to put your condo up for sale versus, say, a house? Chances are you or someone you know has done the latter before, but maybe not the former; however, with condos gaining in popularity more and more every year, it's important to nail down the differences so you've got them locked in when you finally make the decision.

Luckily, it's pretty simple says Rizwan:

Putting a condo up for sale is quite similar to putting up a home for sale, however, there are some differences. When it comes to freehold, you own the property and can decide where to put the for sale sign or even the lockbox to assist agents in showing the property. This isn't the case with a condo. The Condo board or property management will dictate where you're permitted to place the lockbox. Also, you're not allowed to have a For Sale sign because the lane outside the front door is common. Lastly, the condo board may not allow open houses. That is another thing to keep in mind.

When you're in control of only one part unit in a whole building, it becomes a lot more about working with the management of that area than with your own wishes, but you should want to work together. The condo board doesn't always have to serve as a gatekeeper, they want business as much as you want to make a sale, so why not work out the kinks with them and then find out a way you can use the rules to your advantage.

Don't forget to order the status certificate

Rizwan provides insight into the kind of mistakes even the most experienced people don't realize they make:

One of the biggest mistakes I've noticed that people make when selling... is not ordering the status certificate. This document is generally $100 and is purchased from the property management and speaks to the financial health of the building. Most condo purchases are conditional on the new buyer reviewing this document with their lawyer.

Ordering this in a timely fashion (read: early) means the sale can run smoothly and efficiently, because it's something the prospective buyer doesn't need to ask for, wait for, and then review. It can conceivably be kept at the ready for anyone interested and they can immediately take it to their lawyer.

Sellers or realtors who wait until the property is sold to order this document run the risk of holding the property for more than 10 days. The condo management, based on the condominium act, has only 10 days to do process this, or face consequences. 

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Make sure the property looks as close to the photos as possible

On the day of, a lot can go over your head or slip your mind because of how much else you've had to do to prepare on the back end. Rizwan's got some practical advice about the showings:

Try to make sure the property looks as close to the marketing photos as possible. It doesn't have to be 100 percent but as close as possible, because that is what the buyers fell in love with and that is what got them to arrange for the visit.

If you sneak attack a prospective buyer, they won't just become disinterested, they'll be turned off of the whole idea. The greatest method of selling is to just put your best foot forward (or, in this case, pictures), and act honestly.

Put your valuables away! If there is a potential that something might fall/break then pack it away. Don't tempt fate!

Rizwan understands there's a real danger that comes with strangers in your home, no matter how innocent the situation. Things can always go wrong and it's not worth having your priceless vase on display for only the possibility of a sale.

These are the questions you need to prepare yourself for

So what are some of these oft-forgotten questions? Rizwan listed these:

  • How much money is in the building's reserve fund?
  • When was the last financial audit?
  • Any special assessments from the condo board?

The best way to have these answers is by ordering the status certificate at the start of the listing or even before you've moved on to the listing portion of the selling process. With that piece of material, any relevant question will be easily answered.

If you have tenants, here's what you need to do

If the property is tenanted, you have to provide 24 hours notice before all showings. I usually suggest offering tenants a complimentary cleaning every two weeks while the property is being shown, because it is in the Seller/Landlord's interest for it to show at its best.

So, be civil, and be accommodating. Give your tenants time, and they'll appreciate it.

When it comes to informing the buyers about tenants, don't be afraid to do it. It's not so difficult and they may want the property for exactly the same reason! 

It will appear on the listing that the property is tenanted. In some cases if the purchaser is an investor they may choose to keep the tenant (if the tenant wishes to stay).

If not, once again, you've got to be accommodating to both parties. Ultimately, it's your property, and you may do with it what you will, but treat the subject gingerly and express your support to the tenant during the process, whether it's just a transition of the landlord or they must leave.

Remember: Space sells

Once you have all your documents ready, it's time to prepare he property:

Sellers should prepare the condo no different than a home. Condos are typically much smaller than homes so therefore, should have even less clutter. It is crucial to show the space in its best possible way.

This is a perfect segue way into the excellent advice we received from Luanne! Let's explore the more aesthetic, appealing side of the process.

533 Richmond Street
533 Richmond Street

The tentpoles of staging

Luanne Kanerva starts off simply. These are the tentpoles of making a condo look great:

Lighting, flow, and perception of size and use of space.

Show off your property's capabilities. Leave the space open to imply how much could go on there, and how it could be used for a variety of purposes, or work with a variety of aesthetic looks.

Buyers comment on the above characteristics because as prices increase the condos that are in their price range become smaller. Sellers need to ensure their spaces are bright and well lit. Some condos don't have windows in all the rooms so it is very important to have sufficient light... [and] selling is not the time for mood lighting. Layers of light are great. Even if there is an overhead light, there is no reason not to have a lamp to create light at different levels.

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Without the aid of natural light, which almost always brightens and opens up a room, use multiple lights to achieve the same effect. Keep quality high, with bulbs at their brightest unless purposefully dimmed - though avoid that as much as possible, as you want the buyer to create their own ambience, not inhabit yours.

Make sure there is a natural flow to the space

Next very important thing is flow, says Luanne:

Flow is how the buyer or buyers' gaze moves from room to room. Is there a natural feeling?

This is where de-cluttering, and thinking smartly about where you place your furniture comes in handy. You, again, want the potentially small space to seem open. That means creating a path with which the eye follows easily, to the point that it doesn't even know it's following a path. That natural look and flow is exactly what makes somewhere foreign feel homey, and inviting. 

Paint rooms the same or similar colours, and use the same design elements throughout.

Luanne's Rules on Clutter

  • Clutter has to go. Buyers want to see your house, not your stuff.
  • Every surface should have no more than three decor items on it.
  • If it is not furniture, then it should not be on the floor.
  • Don't buy more storage, get rid of stuff.
  • Never have the back of your furniture facing the entrance of the room or cutting the room in half if there is any other option.

The buyers want to see a finished home, not a half-done project

Buyers do not want to look at a half-finished project. They want to see a finished home and imagine themselves living in it, their way. And this is where sellers usually make a mistake by doing it "their way". This just makes the property seem less accessible, since the seller's taste might not be what the buyer is looking for. On the other hand, it's important for the property to be in move-in condition and buyer usually pay more for such properties. Just make sure to keep it neutral:

Repair, upgrade, or paint. Getting it done first will pay off. It shows you care about your property. Sellers should not undertake projects that they are not going to do well or that are of a particular taste - such as country theme dining room. The risk is too high.

Pick neutral colours for the walls

Colours, furniture placement, lighting, and flow: the elements of a good staging. We're back to it, but with a harder focus on specifics—colours, furniture and trends.

Colours tend to change with the trends and the seasons. Right now... light grays and warm grays for neutral walls; neutrals and light colours. Add colour in the art or accents. Blues are on trend right now, blue accents can be added anywhere.

Keep the larger stuff simple, and add specificity and flourish in the details, so they don't detract. 

I wouldn't paint a living room blue but a bathroom or bedroom would be great. Red or burgundy dining rooms, and green or yellow kitchens and baths are bad choices for selling.

8 Park Road | Lots of light
8 Park Road | Lots of light

Every room should have a purpose..and the purpose should show!

Rooms should be set up so a buyer can immediately see the purpose of the room. That means you need furniture, even though it might seem that the rooms look bigger without it:

If you have a small bedroom, show a bed fits. Always show the largest bed that will fit comfortably. Some people think rooms without furniture look bigger but that is not true at all. With furniture, a buyer can see what fits and what else might fit.

You must think about the sale from a buyer's point of view, not from your own

You might think about how the room looks from where you sit at your desk, or from in your bed, but the buyer isn't going to sit on your bed or at your desk, they're going to keep with the flow and take a cursory look at all of it from the best vantage point they have: the entrance. 

Luanne says it's important to bring in an outside perspective.

Have an honest friend walk around and tell you what they see when they are in your condo. We often become oblivious to our space because we see it every day.

Remember, buyers are buying a dream of what their lifestyle could be like if they lived in your condo, says Luanne:

Sellers need to show the best possible lifestyle—not overcrowded closets and broken-down furniture they have had since college.

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Last Thoughts

There are updates buyers will notice, and updates they won't notice at all, so you've got to keep in mind what may at first seem important but later seem frivolous because of how little attention was paid to it:

Sellers often focus on what they wanted to change while they lived in a space. But the things buyers notice are updated paint, light fixtures, switches and outlets. The things that date a space. So frivolous would really only be something seller is hyper focused on that most buyers wouldn't notice. I find it is usually something specific to each seller! That is where a professional can really help focus on the most cost efficient updates.

The market is now, and if you have the ability, this is exactly the kind of information that's going to put you at ease in what can normally be a pretty stressful situation. But you don't have to go through this alone. If you want to sell your condo, contact us and we'd be happy to help you and answer any of your questions.

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